Friday, August 8, 2008

Chess Stuff

I am now the Product Reviewer for, and as such my chess scribblings will now be hosted there. Check out my first Featured Article as Product Review Guy!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Chess Gear: Wooden Chess Game

When I first became serious about playing chess, I only played on or against a computer. Eventually, I was hankerin’ for some over-the-board play, so I decided to buy some chess gear. After a bit of investigation, I determined that I would buy two chess games. One of them would be portable so I could drag it to the local coffee shop (or wherever), and one would be wood which I would use at home. Both games would have kings of 3 3/4 inch height and board squares with sides of 2 inches. I also wanted an analog clock. I’ll deal with just the wooden game in this article.

Let’s be clear on one point. If I’m going to lay out a bunch of cash for something, the build quality must be high and it has to look good. Call me shallow, but my aesthetic values must be satisfied or it will be a purchase I regret for a long time into the future.

With my criteria set, I began my research. There isn’t a dizzying array of respectable online chess retailers, but there are enough to make me spend a considerable amount of time weighing the possible choices. Since I live in Canada, I first started looking at Canadian shops, thinking that cheaper shipping would result. As it turned out, it didn’t make a lick of difference. If a Canadian shop had lower (or even free) shipping, importing a game from the States would yield a lower cost game, but at increased shipping price. The chess kit that I finally bought was a somewhat bizarre example of this, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

So, I figured I was going to spend about 300 bux for the whole package, and with the issue of pricing pretty much out of the way, I set about to find the highest quality and best looking game I could find. It’s interesting to note that for a fixed money at the lower end of cost, the look of the Knight is generally what suffers most. This probably isn’t surprising as a decent looking Knight is probably more time-consuming to make than the other pieces. I was also looking at finding a chess game who’s colours, of both board and chess men, weren’t too constrasty. I figure I’ll be staring at this board for lengthy periods so I don’t want it giving me headaches. I settled on men made of boxwood and rosewood with a board made of maple and mahogany. I also picked up a clock with a mahogany finish, and a mahogany box for storing the pieces.

I could buy all this stuff from several of the online venders. I chose The Chess Store mostly because of the look of the Knights they were hocking in the French Lardy Staunton set. Imagine my surprise when I found out that they would charge me about half what other sellers were asking for similar kit!

Well, not so fast there, bucko. As it turns out, these little buggers were going to charge me upwards of $150 to ship my order to me! So, the price of the chess game was going to be about the same as anywhere else, just that much of the cost was loaded onto the (ridiculous) shipping price.

Ah well, it was what I wanted. I just wasn’t getting the great deal that I thought I was getting. Anyway, the point of me retelling this part of the tail is to warn you to watch for those shipping costs lest ye be caught on the back-end. Other than that, shipping was prompt and without any hassle.

I can state, however, that the quality of the board, men, clock and box are of excellent build and I expect them to keep me happy for a long time to come. Except for the men, everything else appears to be veneer with probably a pine center but they look great nevertheless and seem to be stuck together with fairly high precision.

While The Chess Store no longer appears to sell exactly what I bought from them, I’ll give you a list that closely approximates what I bought:

In conclusion, if you are interested in buying a wooden chess game, you could do considerably worse than ordering from The Chess Store.